There are spoilers in this review. Duh.
I heard about this book through the grapevine, aka the book by Greg Sestero aka “Oh Hi Mark,” the only real friend of Tommy Wiseau, the creator of the insanely terrible film The Room. Like a lot of people, I was genuinely curious to find out more about the behind the scenes. I don’t go to any of those midnight showings, I’ve only seen the movie myself once, although it’s truly memorable in ways that no one can fully put their finger on. It was a fascinating book. Tommy’s as much of a mystery to Greg, really, even after all their years as friends. He won’t tell anyone how he has all his money, he says he’s from New Orleans but clearly he isn’t with that accent, he won’t say his real age, and he’s completely delusional. The way Greg wrote this book is the best way to handle problematic people in your life: truthfully, but affectionately. Tommy is just as creepy and bizarre as you’d expect, and Greg doesn’t hold back in describing how terribly he treated the cast and crew, but there’s also this undercurrent of someone who genuinely cares about the man despite all that.
That is certainly the key to why this movie got made. James Franco must have read the book, who isn’t fascinate by the room?, and then felt that strange simpatico that Greg feels toward Tommy, and went ‘hmmm this could be something great.’ I think the movie does double down pretty closely on that aspect. So generally, the movie is about how nineteen year old actor Greg became friends with Tommy. He’s too shy and awkward to be a good actor, although he’s very earnest and handsome, played here by Dave Franco with his puppy dog eyes. He is fascinated by Tommy, played by James, who is completely confident and believes he is extraordinary while everyone just goes … how???? They strike up a friendship that Tommy seems to find surprising, although he plays it cool. Clearly the dude didn’t have a lot of friends. The two of them encouraged each other to keep trying to go for their dreams, eventually leading to Tommy writing The Room and asking Greg to costar in it.
In the book there’s a much longer story about how they cast someone else as Mark, and then Tommy weirdly got rid of the guy by not telling him he was fired but by having Greg start filming as Mark. That’s only one of many weird things that happened on the set, and I really recommend you read the book. The movie shows a lot of them, like how Tommy couldn’t remember lines, and was very creepy around the woman playing Lisa, and how he didn’t give any of them water. And taped them so he could hear what they were saying behind his back. Greg tries to keep it all together, but he eventually gets frustrated with Tommy. Yet when Tommy premieres his movie, and hears everyone laughing at him, he’s only cheered up when Greg points out at least he’s invoking emotion of some kind. The Room will be memorable, and not in the way Tommy wanted, but in a way that did gain him fame of some kind. The movie does seem to have some kind of sympathy for Tommy, which I understand, especially as it comes from a book written by a man who cares for him. He’s a strange person and it’s easy to laugh at him, but there is some quality about him that’s sympathetic. Probably because he is earnest and yet delusional at the same time.
This was a great movie! It was an excellent adaptation from the book. They changed around some things but I understand why. I think it got the general point across. The acting was solid, and I did laugh at the end where they showed The Room scenes next to the ones they shot and how similar they were. Generally this was very funny and entertaining to watch. But I will say The Disaster Artist only works if you know the movie and already are fascinated by it. I can’t imagine how this movie would work for someone who has no concept of what it’s based on. And if you don’t like the movie and have no idea why people do, this would seem indulgent and giving him too much attention. Even if they made success off Tommy, they didn’t invite him to the Oscars (WHO WOULD?), and didn’t let him speak at the Golden Globes (OBVIOUSLY). Don’t get me wrong, there is an aspect of hey it’s his life, you probably should, but at the same time, who knows what that man would say given the chance. Maybe they should have let him. We’d have some interesting headlines.
I recommend the book and the movie if you’re interested in the material, but if you don’t know what it’s about, don’t bother … until you’ve see The Room or read the book. Do I think this should have been Oscar nominated? Hmmm. I don’t know, honestly. I thought it was a well done film and Hollywood does love to celebrate movies that are about it. So maybe I agree with them? I would put it on my top 10 of 2017 so there you go.